Thank you so much to author, Sandy Lender, for taking the time to answer some questions for us. We appreciate it, and we know that your readers will as well!
1. What inspired you to write this book?
Answer: Back in 2008, I learned of the International 3-Day Novel Contest, sponsored by a Canadian publishing company. You start writing at midnight Friday of Labor Day Weekend and type as fast as you can until midnight Monday. It’s 72 hours of insane creativity and, as you can imagine, insane inspiration. If you pay the $35 entry fee, and then submit your manuscript at the end of the ordeal, a judge will read your work and you’re in the running to win publication. That first year, I finished with over 41,000 words and the first of the Dragons in Space series: Problems on Eldora Prime. I didn’t win the first place prize of publication, but I got a nice note back from the judge with useful feedback that I put into the editing process.
2. Can you tell me about the book?
Answer: Problems on Eldora Prime is a sci-fi/fantasy in the young adult sphere, taking place about 50 or so years in our future when sea level rise (SLR) has forced the United Society for Peace and Strength (USPS) to offload humans for terraforming projects around the galaxies. A 17-year-old pilot, Khiry Okerson, crashes on Eldora Prime because there’s treason afoot. “Landing” alive may have solved one problem, but Khiry courts more danger than she realizes when she liberates some unexpected hostages from the ship’s cargo hold: dragons. Sadly, some of them join the inhabitants of the unforgiving moon to hunt terraformers and the Instigator’s dwindling crew. Khiry has to find a way off the rock and into the USPS’s good graces. She’s got a capable marksman on her team in the handsome and renown Kor, but she still wonders how her people can escape with a captain’s treason on her hands and a political leader’s sister in her care—care she can’t guarantee.
3. What is your writing process like?
Answer: My writing process depends on the day and my mood. There are times—like the 3-Day Novel weekend—when I’m ultra-organized with an outline for a specific work, notes, a list of character names to work from, a playlist on repeat for background noise, and snacks lined up so I don’t have to stop to make food. Then there are times when I type a few words on multiple projects like scattering thoughts around several worlds. For my day job, writing is extremely organized.
4. What did you learn when writing the book?
Answer: I need a lot of caffeine to type longer than 12 hours at a stretch.
5. What surprised you the most?
Answer: I can write scenes that make me jump. Like…in fear.
6. What does the title mean?
Answer: Problems on Eldora Prime is the first in a series of “problems” that Khiry Okerson has to deal with throughout the galaxies, so it means there are more problems to come. This particular “problem” is taking place on a moon designated Eldora Prime, and should give the potential reader the idea that this is taking place in space. This is partly sci-fi.
7. Was the character inspired by a real person? If so, who?
Answer: Khiry Okerson wasn’t inspired by any certain person, but Kor has a touch of a rock star in him. Kor is fabulous…and yummy. (Don’t worry, he’s just turned 20 years old, so it’s okay to think of him as hot-as-the-rising-sun.)
8. What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended?
Answer: Several characters were “taken” into the mountains, and I can’t give away more than that without ruining things for readers, but those characters have some hope in a future Dragons in Space book. There’s always hope! Khiry, Kor, and Electra make up the core group of adventurers in the Dragons in Space series, so they work to clear their name with USPS after the end of this first book.
9. What advice do you have for writers?
Answer: Don’t quit.
10. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Answer: It depends on the project. For my day job, I’m the editor of a construction magazine, and there are times when I exhaust my brain writing an article for that. I love my job, but I get paranoid about getting all the information right, getting everybody’s quotes right, getting the stats right, etc. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself for the magazine because the audience uses the information. Now, when I’m working on poetry, short stories, character backgrounds, or bits of novels, holy cow, that’s energizing to me.
11. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Answer: I think writers who spend too much time online can get de-motivated by distraction and by the negativity out there. Ya gotta get back to your own mojo to stay motivated and positive.
12. What is your writing Kryptonite?
Answer: My writing Kryptonite is going down the rabbit hole when doing research. I know that most of my writing is fantasy (which I love love love), but I use Old English and Anglo-Saxon themes that send me to my textbooks from college and there I go…rabbit hole.
13. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Answer: I wrote a book for the #metoo movement titled She’s Not Broken under the pseudonym Kelsey Day. I don’t mind sharing that; I edited the work as well and put my name on the book as the editor. But I used a pseudonym because the content is far outside my typical speculative fiction writing and I needed to distance myself from a few of the stories within the narrative. I have also written articles for the avian community under a pseudonym.
14. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Answer: I’ll let you know in October.
15. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Answer: I have a trilogy from ArcheBooks Publishing that also has two chapbooks of additional content—those books are all “together.” Then I have the Dragons in Space series that are all “together.” I also have a paranormal holiday romance that is the first in a series of such cute-n-silly romances—those will all be “together.” So I have individual worlds, but there are connections between books in those worlds.
16. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Answer: Oh my…I don’t even know. I have another book in the Dragons in Space series in progress right now. And there are so many other projects…so many…
17. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Answer: The amount of research I do for a book depends on how big the world is going to be.
18. How do you select the names of your characters?
Answer: Selecting names for characters is all over the place for me. Sometimes I research what a name means; sometimes I combine Old English words to create a name; sometimes I look for popular baby names that resonate with the character running laps in my brain.
19. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Answer: This question makes no sense to me.
20. What was your hardest scene to write?
Answer: Oh…I can’t answer this for two reasons. First, it would ruin a climactic scene in my Choices Meant for Gods series from ArcheBooks Publishing. Second, I will cry.
21. What is your favorite childhood book?
Answer: Motorcycle Mouse by Beverly Cleary!
22. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Answer: I don’t have an average. To write a first draft, I can do the 3-Day Novel weekend and come up with something like Problems on Eldora Prime and Problems Above Pangaea Moon. I wrote May Your Heart Be Light in 13 days, but then took a couple years to edit it and add some extra stuff. Then there’s a month-long process for participating in NaNoWriMo. Then there’s the years (yes, years) it took to write Choices Meant for Gods, Choices Meant for Kings, and Choices Meant for All.
23. Do you believe in writer’s block?
24. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
Answer: I like using the computer, but my host enjoys the tactile sensation of writing with pen and paper. (And I prefer purple gel pens.)
25. When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
Answer: I knew I wanted to write books when I was about eight years old. My great grandmother used to share the stories I wrote for her with the people in her apartment building when I was a little girl.
26. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
Answer: Sometimes I will set a word goal for the evening or day. During NaNoWriMo, I have specific goals for sure, but I typically write what my creative energy will come up with.
27. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
Answer: It depends on the day, my mood, and the purpose for the book whether I’ll set a plot or let the characters sway everything. If I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, I’ll have at least a sparse outline of a plot that I try to keep the characters working within. If it’s 3-Day Novel weekend, I probably have a more structured outline and a plot in mind. Now, there’s no guarantee I’ll keep that plot. I could get to Hour Seven and realize, “Hey, these characters need to kill something.”
28. Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?
Answer: For writers who think they have writers block, I recommend reading a book in your genre. I’m not suggesting you mine someone else’s work for ideas! But reading good work (Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is well executed) can jump start your own creative juices sometimes.
29. Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors?
Answer: I love to read and I love the Brontes (all of them). I’m also a fan of Terry Goodkind, Tolkien, Austen, Mercedes Lackey, Pratchett, Ursula K. LeGuin, Vonnegut, Juliet Marillier, Eddings, a bunch more are faves.
30. How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?
Answer: I can tell you exactly how it feels. My first book signing took place at Barnes & Noble in Naples, Florida, and no one showed up for the first 30 minutes. I was horrified. I stood there with my stack of books, my sword to attract attention, my fancy tablecloth, the store’s sign with my name and book title, waiting, waiting, waiting. No one from the Naples Press Club, of which I was a member, came. No one from the new office where I worked came. No one from my neighborhood came. My soon-to-be-ex-husband did not come. My family members live in other states, so none of them came. About 30 minutes into the time-frame for my signing, thank God, my publisher arrived. I wasn’t alone. Then a fellow writer, whose signing I had attended a few weeks prior, came in and she took my picture with my sword and books.
I felt utterly alone and worthless for 30 minutes, wondering if I’d made a horrible mistake stepping out of the writer’s den. An elderly couple walked in, and as the man walked toward my table, the shrew of a woman grabbed his arm and yelled at him, “That’s not Harry Potter!” The poor man’s eyes met mine as if he begged for my help. All I could do was smile at him.
The stories of customers wanting directions to the restroom are true. If you are standing in a book store for a book signing, you are “free help” for a couple hours. I gave directions to various sections of the store and was polite and friendly to everyone. I handed out a ton of bookmarks and signed a stack of books that afternoon. It worked out all right in the end. Just because a signing starts out rough doesn’t mean it will be rough the whole time. That was my first book and my first signing. Subsequent signings have been better!
31. Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?
Answer: Dick and Jane!
32. How much of yourself do you put into your books?
Answer: I don’t know how much of “me” goes into the books and short stories I write. Writers can’t get away from putting our thoughts into a character or two, but I try not to sermonize anywhere in my works.
33. Who are your books mostly dedicated to?
Answer: My first book—Choices Meant for Gods—is dedicated to my great grandmother, of course. Then I dedicate books to people who have inspired some part of the process or plot.
34. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
Answer: My great grandmother and my Aunt B were always supportive and great encouragers of my writing. My Aunt B was a high school English teacher!
35. Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?
Answer: Ah, that’s the Castle effect. While I loved the TV show, it gave the general public the wrong idea about writers. Even folks getting published by the big houses aren’t turning independently wealthy overnight, if at all. Once a book hits the marketplace, those big houses expect sell-through in a certain number of days. If you don’t hit your sell-through, they’re done with you. That means you need a marketing plan before launch. Marketing plans can get pricy. It’s all in the marketing and promotion now-a-days. I could ramble on about that for hours, but Jo Linsdell has a fantastic program called International Promo Day that she runs, for free, online, each spring to help authors come up with ideas for promoting their works.
36. Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?
Answer: I’ve never heard of this…
37. Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?
Answer: I have pitched to countless literary agents with lots of rejections there. That’s why I sat down with Bob Gelinas of ArcheBooks Publishing to pitch my Choices Meant for Gods series directly. That was exhilarating.
38. What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?
Answer: I haven’t done this. If you read the Illuminae Files trilogy, you’ll see how fabulously this can be executed.
39. Is writing book series more challenging?
Answer: I think writing a series is easier than writing a stand-alone book when the characters are strong, opinionated, and taking longer to go through their arcs than you planned…
40. Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier?
Answer: This is why I have notepads all over my house. I have a magnetic whiteboard on my fridge. I have sticky notes with words, character names, random lines, titles, beast descriptions, and the like all over my linen closet. Stephen King gave a lecture once in which he said you don’t need to write down those random ideas that come to you because you’ll remember the good ones…but I think I have too much stress in my life to remember anything anymore. I gotta write it down.
41. Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?
Answer: All the time!
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